Proof Texting and Theological Scholars of Google U.

The information age.


It is just so amazing.

Isn’t it? Whatever you want to know is a mere finger swipe away. Have an ache or a pain?  Google it.  Based on your symptoms, you will be able to narrow it down to a few things before you ever go to the doctor.  Google even told me I was likely depressed before my doctor did.  I even did a brake job on my own van. Yes.  Me. And I hate having greasy fingers. I simply found a Youtube video and watched a mechanic do it, and I followed along.  Need a recipe for home degreaser for your hands after doing a brake job?  Google it. Need a home remedy?  Want to find a craft to do with the kids?  Dinner ideas? Sports stats? Want to know what the 17th digit of Pi is??

Just Google it.

We are surrounded by information.  It is everywhere.  Like the air surrounding us, we breathe it in…but…it is almost like we have some kind of lung disease.  We breathe it in, but, not much of it sticks.  We have to keep going back, gasping for that tiny bit of information, only to forget it shortly thereafter.  And this air that we are gasping for is also heavy laden with poisonous gases… and many of us have no respirator to filter the bad stuff out. Some of us do not check if what we are reading is correct information, partially correct, mostly or completely false…and we breathe it back out for other unsuspecting people all over social media and in conversation. There is so much conflicting evidence all from “verified” sources. Who is right about climate change?  Vaccines? GMO’s? And on and on.   And not much of it looks very reputable.

But still I enjoy living in this information age.  It is amazing to be able to look up anything at any time. And with some discernment, you really can learn alot. But sometimes it is too easy.  Don’t you think? I mean, we don’t have to exercise our brains any more, we don’t have to study, learn and do. We just Google it.

Almost everyone is a Google scholar….especially, it seems, when it comes to the discussion of churchy stuff like doctrine.

I find myself cringing as I watch all the young theological graduates of Google U. feverishly debating all kinds of churchy/doctrinal subjects with each other on social media. Worse, is when it is against men who have served in the ministry for decades, who have MDiv’s or  Theological Doctorates.  Now there is nothing wrong with debate, or standing up for the truth, or questioning things – even those things your pastor says –  but just because you read a great quote by John Piper, or a great blog post by some reformed blogger, and you know how to copy and paste a proof text, does not mean you are a theological scholar. I am not immune either, so this is as much for me as for anyone else.

A word to the younger people.

Hone your knowledge and skills, and get to know your Bible…but realize that Googling proof-texts and reading Christian bloggers will never replace the blood, sweat, tears and prayer that our pastors have poured into studying the Bible, confessions, and countless books written by dead Christian geniuses. He is wielding a finely crafted warrior’s sword, with well calloused hands and strong arms.  A sword handed down to him from a long line of warriors before him who trained him to use it well…and we are getting blisters from our little butter knives.  We should put our butter knife down before we get hurt…besides…mom needs it to make us a sandwich.

Google does not a scholar make.

To be fair, I am also guilty of using Google to proof-text for my position.  It is so easy to do.  But if we want to really learn something of theology, we need to pull out the big guns: 

Pray, and earnestly seek God in devotion.
Read the Bible –  in context, not in proof text. 
Attend the worship services.
Read the old confessions. There is a wealth of knowledge in them.
Inquire into the minds of pastors and professors. 
Listen to older Christians.  Ask Questions and listen.
Read sermons.

10378061_10152770327236192_8992050941441346455_nDiscover how to interpret scripture with scripture, learn Hermeneutics.

And use google, but please… there is a ton of garbage out there, just wear your respirator and verify it before you use it.

Read old books by the likes of Athanasius, Edwards, Owen, Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Warfield, Watson, Spurgeon, Berkhof and newer ones by the likes of Sproul, Horton, Bridges, Ferguson, Packer and so on.

On a similar note…Before we think too highly of our own knowledge, just check out this list by Reformed Theological Seminary of suggested pre-seminary reading for those considering the ministry…that is PRE-seminary reading… how many have you read?  I certainly have not read them all. Oh, and if you have read them all don’t get puffed up about it 🙂

And finally we need to ask ourselves why we study God’s Word.
Every time someone drops a proof-text…  it is kinda like they are doing the whole, “Drops mic.  Walks off stage.” thing…over and over…
drop mic gif
and over…
When we go to the Bible and we just pull verses out to support our case, we fail to understand that we study God’s word so that we can learn more about Him. This is where he has revealed himself to us. And the knowledge we gain should then lead back to praise of God.  Theology is for doxology, as the old saying goes. This is not about us.  It is all about Him.
Google is not all bad. It is really an amazing tool.  Yes, even for studying God’s Word, if it is used correctly. But  just because I can watch a YouTube on how to change my brakes, does not mean I am a mechanic.   Googling your symptoms does not make you a doctor.  And Googling proof-texts to copy & paste into social media does not make anyone a theological scholar.
Here are a few copy & pasted, out of context, proof texts I googled just for this post,:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. ~ 1 Timothy 5:17

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. ~ Titus 3:9-11

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ~ Proverbs 9:10

One Christian Dad can validate the prosperity gospel with proof-texting…he won’t, but he could…

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  1. jemzlinde says:

    Thanks for posting this. As a fairly young person I find it pretty hard to swallow (the attraction of google and other self-teaching tools is that they don’t condescend), but when I think about how many times I’ve disagreed with my dad only to find out later that he was right, I have to concede that the experts deserve respect 🙂 That reading list is pretty impressive, too.